13 August 2021
Since the onset of COVID-19, more than 500,000 temporary migrants (many of them skilled migrants) have left Australia. It is expected that a further 77,000 people will leave Australia before 30 June 2022. Not only are these negative migration figures revealing major skills shortages, they also expose structural issues in Australia’s migration program that affect the business sector’s ability to attract and retain overseas talent in a globally competitive environment.
In February 2021, a Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee was tasked to examine Australia’s migration program to identify both short-term adjustments to alleviate immediate concerns and longer-term solutions to address structural issues. After months of consultation, the Committee has now produced its final report outlining 18 recommendations on Australia’s future of work and migration. This builds on the recommendations released in the Committee’s interim report. We have summarised the final recommendations here for your reference.
What are the Committee’s recommendations?
- The Committee recommends the Government develop a dynamic national workforce plan. The plan would coordinate the efforts of State and Federal Governments to ensure Australia’s persistent skills shortages and future workforce needs are also addressed through Australia’s higher education and vocational education systems, employment services and the skilled migration program.
- The National Skills Commission should develop a new occupation and/or skills identification system for the skilled migration program in consultation with industry to replace the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO). The new system should be more flexible to adapt to emerging labour market needs.
- The Committee recommends that the Government develop accepted definitions of acute skills shortages and persistent skills shortages taking into account factors such as recruitment difficulty, number of job vacancies and criticality of the occupation (e.g. nurses and general practitioners).
- The Committee recommends that the Government consolidate the Medium and Long-Terms Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL) and Short-Term Skilled Occupation List (STSOL) into one list - the Skilled Occupation List (SOL).
- The Committee recommends that, when the pandemic is concluded, the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL) should be replaced by an Acute and Persistent Skills Shortage List (APSSL).
- The Committee recommends that the Department of Home Affairs should change the visa conditions for the short-term stream of the Temporary Skills Shortage visa (subclass 482) to provide a pathway to permanent residency for temporary migrants. All employer nominated visas should provide the option of a pathway to permanency.
- The Committee recommends that the Government provide further concessions for temporary regional visas, including increased timeframes for Labour Market Testing and age limits.
- The Committee recommends the Government consider changes to post-study work arrangements for certain international student graduates in occupations with a persistent skills shortage. Such graduates would be eligible for a discount on the work experience component for permanent residency under the employer nominated scheme from three years to two years. The Government should also consider longer temporary graduate visas of three years to provide time and flexibility for graduates to find work.
- The Committee recommends that the Government enables intra-company transfer of executive employees of multinational companies to Australia where necessary for these companies to expand their operations in Australia. Streamlining should include an exemption from labour market testing.
- The Committee recommends that the Government temporarily extends the timeframe for employers to undertake Labour Market Testing prior to nomination from four months to six months during the pandemic recovery.
- The Committee recommends that the Government exempts businesses from Labour Market Testing when a 457 or 482 visa holder has been employed in the position on a full-time basis for 12months or more and prior to the lodgment of a subsequent visa application or a permanent residence application.
- The Committee recommends that employers should be exempt from paying the Skilling Australia Fund levy twice for the same applicant, or for a subsequent visa, where the employer has already paid the Skilling Australia Fund levy for that employee.
- The Committee recommends that universities should be exempt from the Skilling Australia Fund levy.
- The Committee recommends that the Government guarantees a refund of the Skilling Australia Fund levy where the visa application is unsuccessful and where there is no evidence of fraud on the part of the sponsor or applicant.
In its report, the Committee acknowledged many long-standing challenges that businesses have identified with the migration program. In particular, the report addresses common concerns over how the Government identifies skills shortages, ANZSCO’s limitations as an occupation dictionary underpinning the migration program and the confusion caused by having multiple occupation lists.
Whilst the report summarises a compelling need for structural changes, they are only recommendations at the moment. It remains to be seen whether these recommendations will be endorsed by Parliament.